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Irish biz divided on secondary ticket regulation

Peter Aiken, Ticketmaster, Tickets.ie and more have submitted wildly different opinions to the Irish government as it mulls what action to take, if any, on ticket resale

By Jon Chapple on 12 May 2017

U2, Irish debate over secondary ticketing

The current debate in Ireland was sparked by touting of tickets for U2's show at Croke Park in July

image © U2start.com

Concert promoters, ticket agents, lawyers and sporting organisations are divided as to the need for regulation of secondary ticketing in the Republic of Ireland, as MPs debated a new bill aimed at capping resale prices at 10% above face value.

Maurice Quinlivan, the TD (teachta dála) for Limerick City, yesterday evening presented his Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017, which would make it an offence to “sell or offer for sale a ticket for a designated event at a price greater than 10% above the face value of the ticket”, for its second reading in the lower house of Irish parliament, the Dáil Éireann. Quinlivan’s bill follows a similar piece of proposed legislation by Noel Rock TD, which was rejected by the Dáil in January in favour of a period of consultation with leading Irish music industry stakeholders.

While Quinlivan’s bill won some support, mostly from his own Sinn Fein party – Sinn Fein TD Sean Crowe spoke of the need to “tackle the ticket rip-off chancers”, while Martin Kenny TD suggested that “everyone agrees there is a major problem here” – an amendment by government minister Sean Kyne delayed the process of the bill by nine months to allow for further scrutiny.

Quinlivan this morning criticised “the government’s 11th-hour attempt to kick this legislation down the road for nine months”, claiming the bill was sabotaged by an allegedly bitter Rock.

“It has become clear that Noel Rock TD – who drafted a similar, but flawed, bill on the issue which has not moved from first stage – was upset with the decision that the government was to facilitate this Sinn Fein bill to address ticket touting,” he said, “and so an amendment was aimed at appeasing him and delaying the progress of my bill.

“It’s worth noting that Deputy Rock has gone out of his way to try and discredit the legislation over the past couple of days in the media, yet he made no personal contribution to the debate on the matter last night.”

“Where artists want to limit or mitigate resale, we provide comprehensive tools to achieve that”

The latest round of parliamentary debate comes after the conclusion of a public consultation on ticket touting by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Those who responded included promoter Aiken Promotions; consumer groups ECC Ireland and the Consumers’ Association of Ireland; sports governing bodies GAA, FAI and IRFU; primary ticket agencies Ticketmaster Ireland and Tickets.ie; and several secondary sites, including StubHub, Seatwave and Viagogo.

Aiken Promotions MD Peter Aiken proved the most vocal in his support for new regulation, stating he “would like to see the resale of tickets by third parties criminalised”. “This,” he said, “would give the public the opportunity to purchase a ticket on a fair and equal footing for all.”

That view, predictably, is not one shared by Ticketmaster (which owns Seatwave) or the secondary ticketing sites. In its submission, Ticketmaster criticised the “media frenzy around ticket resale”, which has, it said, “only served to confuse the public and sensationalise the issue. Our data shows that less than 1% of the tickets that Ticketmaster Ireland sells on behalf of its clients are subsequently resold – a vastly different story to what is told in the Irish press.”

The answer, said Ticketmaster, lies not in legislation – which would “simply push the market underground or offshore” – but “in technology, and where artists want to limit or mitigate resale, we provide comprehensive tools to achieve that.” (Recent examples include Iron Maiden’s use of paperless and named tickets and its Verified Fan tech, as deployed for Linkin Park’s One More Light tour.)

Aiken’s position is backed by both the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), which says it “would be helpful for legislation […] to combat the sale of tickets by persons who purchase tickets with no intention of ever attending the event, but who resell the tickets at a significant profit”, and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), which states “touting in its various forms should be classified as a criminal activity”.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), declined to pick a side but said it would “welcome the opportunity to enter into a further comprehensive consultation process”.

Despite its recent hiring of 20 people to battle ticket bots, Tickets.ie said the “presence of a secondary market is not detrimental in our view” – although it took a swipe at Ticketmaster by stating its belief that “the transparency of that market is a concern, […] and the vertically integrated nature of the largest promoter with the largest primary ticket agent, the largest secondary ticket agent and the largest venue owner does create an environment in which the smaller promoters and the consumer can be taken advantage of.”

“We would like to see the resale of tickets by third parties criminalised”

“We believe that the best means to protect the consumer is to properly enforce the existing consumer protection and competition laws,” said Tickets.ie CEO John O’Neill, “as opposed to the introduction of new legislation that will have limited impact in practice, be difficult to enforce and will ultimately raise costs for consumers and potentially reduce the number of live events in Ireland.”

Meanwhile, Tixserve – the mobile white-label ticketing platform launched at Omeara in February – said “the jury is out” on the effectiveness of legislation, instead highlighting the importance of ‘track and trace’ paperless technology to combat illicit electronic ticket sale.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation, says her department will now consider the responses before deciding on its position “on a complex issue with a number of different dimensions”.

“I would like to thank the individuals, sporting organisations, promoters, primary and secondary ticketing service providers and others who took the time and trouble to respond to the consultation,” she comments. “Their responses contain a considerable amount of interesting and informative material about the organisation of major entertainment and sporting events and the operation of the primary and secondary markets for such events. They cover a range of different views on the matters at issue and put forward a range of different, and in some cases, conflicting solutions as to what might be done to help ensure that ticket markets would work better for music and sports fans in the future.

“I would encourage everyone with an interest in the issue to read and reflect on the responses to the consultation. Before decisions are taken on a complex issue with a number of different dimensions, it is important that we have the fullest possible understanding of the issues and interests at stake and the widest possible debate on the policy measures that should be adopted.”


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